A friend said to me; You’ve been your son’s only parent for a long time. How old is he now? I replied; He is 33. She said; That’s like a marriage. Well, not really. He is my son and one of my 5 adult children, but unable to go out into the world on his own. His other parent stepped out of his life 13 years ago. And really what other choice did I have? He is my son and he requires aid.
I believe we have choices in this life… and I have tried to choose on the side of loving kindness (chesed) and with the thought in mind; what would I want if I were in the position of needing help in order to live my best life?
Holidays have been difficult times for me. I miss the noise and bustle of my children when most of them were home. Yet I remember wishing for peace and quiet, which has only come since they’ve all grown up and left for their own, independent lives, away from me. Ironic. Beware what you wish for, it may come true and then you wonder; is this truly what I wanted after all?
And much to my chagrin, I once told a friend I couldn’t deal with too much of her “wonderful marriage talk” because I haven’t had that option. I am — have been alone for 21 years, a considerable length of time. Of course I haven’t been alone at all. I raised each of the 4 others until they turned 18 and stepped off the edge of the world of childhood and into the pool; of life as an adult. Only my Nato remains and he currently has a busier life than I do.
I now have the somewhat idle life I dreamed of through the years I had to be 2 loving, sane parents to my children. Those were the days I had to have unlimited patience and tolerance, and keep a “clean-enough” house and work outside of it to pay for necessities of living; clean underwear, auto insurance, mortgage payments, summer camp. Now I am my son’s calendar minder, appointment setter and chauffeur and not least; soother and/or interpreter of his temperamental outbursts.
Living can be messy, contradictory, full of anguish, a time/place when dreams are so far away as to never be obtainable, yet it is also so many other things; our one and only life to be clay in our hands, filled with the awe and wonder of nature at best and worst, and everything, anything, in-between.
What I love most about living is the wonder, the unexpected joyful moments, the gratitude that drops on me like a soft gauzy curtain; not obscuring reality, but reminding me of the worth of unexpected joy especially in the midst of a life of service to another.
I choose service because the options are not affordable. Neither to “place” my son with strangers who may not be patient enough to allow him to be who he is, and hope they use gentleness to curb his extremes, nor… But there is nothing else. I have looked high and low. I could send him to another state far away, depend on financial assistance, take out loans, bankrupt the rest of my life, and again hope that strangers will treat him with dignity and credit him with knowing what he wants, but none of these are options seem right.
And so, life is both the past which is already written, and the present which we live moment by moment, and the future which is ephemeral, a dream, a hoped for unreality perhaps awaiting us, perhaps not. Nato and I, are I think, engaged in each living the moments, occasionally laughing at each others jokes, and what I’ve come to realize; enriching our days with the presence of the other. And thankfully we each have our art, we have music, we have laughter…
I want to end with a poem by W.H. Auden, entitled September 1, 1939.